App store optimization (ASO) is the SEO for mobile apps. With enough effort and good planning, ASO can help you to notch up your app downloads by the thousands and reap the rewards. But in many ways, and given the sheer number of new apps that are being published on a daily basis, ASO can be trickier and more difficult than SEO.
We’ve already discussed the basics of ASO in previous posts, which I suggest you read if you’re new to the game. But while knowing the simple rules helps grasp a general understanding of the concept, putting it to use in real world scenarios presents some totally new challenges.
In this post, I want to share some concrete tips, real-life experience from developers who’ve put ASO principles to good use and improved their app store presence and increased their download rates.
invest in a great ASO optimization tool
There are some great ASO optimization tools out there, and (unsuprisignly), one of our favorites is Mobonaut. You can sign up for a free 14-day trial and get tons of app store insights for both the App Store and Google Play, including:
- View and track rankings for over 250K keywords
- Email alerts for when apps scale or fall in keyword rankings (your apps and competitors apps)
- Monitor your competition’s performance
- Find new keywords, and find out which keywords are drivign organc traffic to your app
- Identify new competitors
- Get the data behind app store rankings; view change logs for any apps, and visualize the impact of a change in app description or a new logo
fInd suitable long-tail keywords
A lot of ASO has to do with having the right set keywords for your app, simply because searches are carried out by keywords and results are assessed by keywords as well. Carter Thomas shares some invaluable ASO keyword tips in this blog post. Specifically, he mentions that the biggest mistake in keyword selection is to shoot for “the highest traffic, most popular keywords.”
While it would be very cool to have your app listed at the top of a very popular keyword search, it’s not a wish that is easily granted, especially when you’re a small fish going up against big players with huge budgets and better reputations.
The key is to find long-tail keywords that might not be extremely popular, but would be relevant to your app’s context, would give you a better chance to rank among the top results and will provide you with better conversion rates. To give you a concrete example, it’s better to be ranked 5th on a keyword that gets 1,000 searches a month than be ranked 300th on a keyword with a monthly search volume of 1,000,000. Believe it or not, in most cases, the former will generate more downloads than the latter.
This is something that I’ve also experienced in web SEO. Long-tail might give you less search volume, but will connect you to a higher quality audience.
Climb the app charts now! Mobonaut: App Store Optimization Everywhere
place your keywords in the right places
Correct keyword placement complements your keyword selection efforts. There are certain differences between the rules that different app stores impose on keyword placement. For instance, App Store gives you a keywords field while Google Play doesn’t but instead gives much more space in the description area.
But in both cases, placing the keyword in your app’s title will be very effective in improving your search ranking. Haris Ikram from CloudOn, a document sharing app, managed to double download rates by placing the right keywords in the app’s title. See the slide deck that details his experience.
constantly track and update your keywords
Most app developers think keyword selection is a onetime task that needs to be done at the time of app release and left alone. But ASO is a dynamic phenomenon and everything is undergoing constant change: keyword rankings, search volumes, competition… So you need to continuously monitor old and new keywords that are related to your app and make the relevant changes to title, description and keywords fields (for App Store) to make sure your app is visible in the right locations.
Justin Malik, a developer from Money From Apps used this technique to change his apps’ income from short initial bursts to a continuous flow of cash. The impact was large enough to convince him to leave his full time job in 2013 and become a professional app developer and publisher. He shares his experience here.
choose your icon wisely
Before viewing the name, description or the screenshots that go with your apps, users will first see your app’s icon. That’s why it’s a major influencer, especially when it appears in search results and app listings next to other similar apps, and it can make the difference between a user choosing your app or that of a competitor.
Gaston Irigoyen from Guide Central managed to increase app downloads by 700% through ASO, as he explained in App Promotion Summit, but the biggest impact came from icon selection. They started out with a homemade icon, but later got one professionally done, which gave their downloads a big boost.
localize your apps
When publishing apps, we tend to only think about our own locale. But the truth is that app users converse in dozens of different languages, and a considerable percentage of users prefer to search and select apps in their own language. App store localization can help you reach out to those users. This is especially useful for mobile games, because in most cases, you don’t need to localize the game itself for it to be playable by users of other languages, but localizing the description and keywords can help you improve your visibility in other regions.
David Janner, an app developer, managed to increase his download rates by 767% by localizing for French, Spanish, Italian and Russian. Read about his experience in Make App Magazine.
over to you
While ASO consists of many rules and principles (that you have to abide by in general), there are some tricks that can give a quicker boost to your app download rates. I hope these tips from the pros were helpful.
If you have success stories of your own to tell, please share with us in the comments section.